Customer service is everything in the ecommerce world.
Competing on price is extremely tricky: a brick-and-mortar store with the right location can charge more, but location is irrelevant online. Competing on selection is comparably tough. Most things are sourced from the same suppliers, and any given product can be purchased from any one of hundreds of stores.
The key, then, is providing the best experience: making your customers so happy with your service that they want to buy more things through your store to experience it again (and to avoid the comparatively-dire services on offer from your competitors).
But how do you do this?
Well, something that every top retailer offers these days is live chat functionality.
Instead of tasking people with entrusting their queries or complaints to confusing ticketing systems, they engage with them in real time through chat windows.
Done well, live chat can solve customer problems and boost sales. Here’s how:
It earns customer loyalty
If a retailer routinely delivers on time, keeps its prices down, and offers a great selection, it can easily be enough to keep people buying from them — but that isn’t the same thing as those people being loyal. You can tell when someone is loyal to a store, because they’ll choose to shop there even when it isn’t justified by any of the factors I just mentioned.
What wins that loyalty? Very simply, it’s interaction with the people behind the store. It’s knowing that every order you place isn’t just helping a store profit: it’s also putting money into the pockets of some very kind and helpful employees.
Every live chat session is an opportunity to form a positive impression of your brand, and if you really impress a customer, you might just turn them into a loyal brand ambassador.
It allows easy recommendations
Upselling and cross-selling are great ways to sell more products, and while they can be automated through dynamic recommendations on product pages, there’s significantly more weight to a recommendation made by an actual person. If a shopper uses a live chat window to ask about a certain product being in stock, the support assistant can point them towards an alternative if it isn’t, or suggest additional things to buy if it is.
This may sound bothersome, but it’s all in the execution. If a support assistant comes across as very formal and indifferent, and then starts needling you to buy something extra, it’ll really sour you on the store as a whole.
Alternatively, if they’re personable, gather some valuable insight, and take the time to make recommendations that they genuinely think the shopper will like, they can generate a lot of additional sales.
It’s far cheaper than phone support
Assuming you want to do away with the ticketing system idea (as you should, because it’s terrible), you only have two options for good live support: offering a phone line, or using a live chat service. Phone support is great because being able to hear someone’s voice can make it easier to help them, but it’s relatively expensive.
Why? Because running a business-viable phone line is an additional cost (as opposed to adding a free or low-cost live chat system to an existing site), and a support assistant can only take one call at a time, whereas they can handle multiple medium-priority live chat conversations simultaneously (some systems make it extremely easy).
Overall, it’s far more cost-effective — and money saved is money earned.
It combines well with chatbots
Here’s another reason why live chat is preferable to phone support: it can be automated to a significant extent. By using a chatbot to field initial queries, solve any that are sufficiently simple, and pass complex issues to real support assistants, you can save a lot of time and effort while also providing some level of support on a 24/7 basis.
If handled well, this is great for customers, because they can still get some assistance if they’re using your store outside of your office hours. Haven’t you ever decided to buy something using your phone while unable to sleep? Keeping shoppers waiting for answers is never a good idea, even if they’re close to converting: 57 percent of shoppers will abandon their purchases if you take too long to provide support.
Given how expensive round-the-clock staff would be, the only alternative would be to hire some virtual assistants (VAs) to work around the clock, but good VAs are costly and best used for high-priority projects.
It offers exceptional visibility
One last time, we must look critically upon phone support for a glaring problem. In this case, this issue is visibility, or the lack thereof. Imagine that a support assistant has a 30-minute conversation with a customer, makes some basic notes, and moves it one step along the support queue.
At the next stage, another support assistant speaks to the customer, and must go by those basic notes, leaving the customer infuriated that they weren’t really listened to.
Because everything in live chat is text-based, there’s no need to take notes, or even to deal with audio issues or problems understanding accents. Once a session is finished, the entire thing can be logged for posterity, so information provided by the customer will never be lost. This leads to problems being solved more efficiently, and more sales being won.
At this point, offering live chat support is an incredibly easy decision to make. It saves time and effort and ramps up efficiency, all while retaining the personal touch of phone support and making it easier to sell through great recommendations.
This guest blog article was written Rodney Laws who is an eCommerce platform specialist and online business consultant. He’s worked in the eCommerce industry for nearly two decades, helping brands big and small to achieve their business goals. You can get his advice for free by visiting Ecommerce Platforms and reading his detailed reviews. For more tips and advice, contact to Rodney on Twitter @EcomPlatformsio.